If you are a user of KDE then big things are happening in your world. The development team has released the SC (Software Compilation) version of 4.5 which means this is the final bugfix version. The feature freeze has already happened so you know this release means it's nearing in-the-wild stability. But why should you be excited about KDE 4.5? This isn't the big leap from 3 to 4. No it is not...but it is a milestone in that this release finds numerous improvements over an already improving desktop.
Has KDE 4 reached the point where it is poised to reclaim its throne as the desktop for the Linux masses? Has 4.x shaken off the buggy, slow stigma that has been plaguing it since it rose out of the fiery 3.x ashes? In this article I am going to highlight some of the new features and fixes you will find in 4.5 and show you how you can install this desktop so that you can draw your own conclusions. NOTE: Public release of KDE 4.5 is set for this August.
Many of these "new" features were really new in the RC candidate (which was the release prior to the SC release). But, since this release actually contains no "new" features, I will include them here.
Reworked notification area: Prior to this release, the KDE 4 notification area was out of place and buggy. Now it actually looks like it belongs on the KDE 4 panel (see Figure 1). Using a new D-Bus based protocol the notification area has a much more uniform look and interacts much better with the desktop as a whole.
KWin Tiling: This feature allows you to automatically place windows next to one another. This might seem a bit similar to a feature that was brought to Windows users in Windows 7. This feature is pretty sweet. Drag a window to the left side of your screen and it will automatically resize itself to fit the left half of your desktop. Drag another window to the right side of your screen and it will automatically resize itself to fit the right half of the desktop. Drag a window to the top of the screen and it will resize itself to fit the entire desktop.
Advanced graphic effects: It is now possible to blur the background of translucent windows as well as numerous smaller improvements in the area of desktop effects make KDE 4 a much richer graphical experience.
WebKit: If you prefer the WebKit HTML rendering engine over the current Konqueror rendering engine, you're in luck. With KDE 4.5 you can now switch Konqueror to WebKit.
Qt 4.7: The upgrade to the latest Qt brings to KDE 4.5 fare more speed than any of the updates have offered to date. KDE 4 now seems like it's not hindering performance on your desktop.
As I mentioned, this release was about bug fixes. From what I have read the total number of bugs squashed in moving from 4.4 to 4.5 have been quite numerous. And it shows. The speed and stability increase is noticeable. In this most recent release you will find bugfixes for:
The list of bugs above is not complete, nor does it look like a list of bugs that would bring about speed increases and stability. Taken as a separate entity they would do little to bring about stability. But in conjunction with the other numerous bug fixes and improvements that have been rolled into what will become KDE 4.5, it all comes together for a much improved experience.
Installation on Ubuntu is simple. Just follow these steps:
For installation on Fedora follow these steps:
The verdict so far
I have been using the latest development release of KDE 4 and I have to say from KDE 4.4 to KDE 4.5 there have been massive improvements. No longer do you feel like you are working with a sluggish, crash-prone desktop environment. Now KDE is starting to develop the stability and speed associated with the GNOME desktop. If you were a fan of KDE 3.5 and hated the idea of updating to the less stable 4.x, you will happy to know that KDE 4.5 will bring about the same level of stability and usability you once knew.
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